Music and audio bling make terrific presents, so here's a nice assortment of goodies. While audiophile gear can be quite expensive, picking out a selection of terrific gift ideas that won't break the bank is still doable. Prices start at $10 and go up to $100. I'll trot out another list of $100+ gift ideas in a few days.
The very first Zu speaker I ever heard was a Druid IV, and it bowled me over! There was a rare vitality to the sound. That was back in 2007, and every Zu speaker I've tested since then has been remarkable. The Druid V is not only a significant advance over any Zu I've tested, it's the best speaker I've heard at home this year.
The Druid V is a 50-inch-tall floor-standing loudspeaker, and it's bolted to an immaculately finished, machined aluminum base. The speaker sports the latest version of Zu's 10.3-inch full-range … Read more
The way I see it, high-end audio is all about the pursuit of excellence, and Audeze headphones exemplify that philosophy. Now sure, most headphone manufacturers try to make the best products they can, but mass-market brands have to satisfy a broad range of tastes, load on features like Bluetooth and phone controls that don't enhance sound quality, and design their products within real-world price constraints. Audeze engineers focus on doing whatever it takes to make the world's best-sounding headphones, and the results speak for themselves.
Most cheap turntables sound cheap -- they're rumbly, thin and distorted -- but the U-Turn Orbit Basic suffers no such faults. Before the $179 Orbit's debut, audiophile turntable prices started at around $400. And while used turntables might be a way to get into vinyl for less, turntables are rather delicate devices, so used buys can be risky. If you're ready to take the plunge and explore new vinyl frontiers, you need a decent turntable to hear what the fuss is all about. The Orbit Basic will take you there.
I first heard about the Orbit when … Read more
I occasionally check in with local high-end audio dealers to see what's new, and they're never at a loss to demonstrate something to catch my ear. Th listening rooms at Audioarts have been refreshed since my last visit, and the store is now the best appointed shop in town. Audioarts doesn't cover entry-level or midrange gear, but there are plenty of other shops covering that market here in New York City.
Grammy Award winning recording engineer Bruce Swedien received his first nomination in 1962 for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry," and Swedien went on to record and mix most of Michael Jackson's albums, including "Thriller," the best-selling album of all time. Swedien also worked with Donna Summer and has been nominated for a total of 13 Grammys.
I know, times being what they are for the music business, it seems like a crazy, even contrarian thing to do. But Rough Trade just opened a 15,000-square-foot record store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York. The store only sells new CDs and LPs, no used stuff, along with various music-related merch like books and magazines.
Rough Trade NYC is a big, wide-open, converted warehouse space -- it feels like it's been there for a long, long time. Rough Trade has a similar, but much smaller, shop in London, which opened in 2007, and it's doing fine. … Read more
When I first set eyes on the Koss KTX Pro 1 headphones I wasn't expecting much. The silver plastic on-ear has an all-too-generic look, but as soon as I started listening the sound had my full attention; they were very decent! Most cheap on-ears sound claustrophobic and pinched, but the KTX Pro 1's sound was big and spacious. The 60-ohm design is exceptionally comfortable, and the foam ear pads exert minimal pressure, so you can wear these things for hours without fatigue setting in. Like all budget headphones the KTX Pro 1's cable lacks an inline mic … Read more
I go way back with NAD amplifiers; I sold dozens of NAD's 3020 amps in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was working as a high-end audio salesman. The 3020 lacked the visual pizzazz of the Sony, Onkyo, Pioneer, and Yamaha amps of the time, but the 3020 was hailed by critics and consumers as the best-sounding budget amp of the era. It went on to become the best-selling amp of the time. Not bad for a company that no one in the US had heard of a few years earlier.
In the here and now we … Read more
My advice to speaker shoppers who prioritize sound quality is go for a good set of big speakers. They conjure the sound of music more realistically than tiny ones. I know all too well that most folks settle for something smaller, and usually it's a case of the smaller, the better. That's why designers are always trying to get bigger sounds out of smaller speakers. Enter the Vanatoo Transparent One, a 10-inch-tall powerhouse armed with a 5.25-inch aluminum woofer, a separate rear-mounted 5.25-inch passive radiator, and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. This little speaker made a … Read more